GNOME: Seven Possible Recovery Strategies: Page 3

Okay, GNOME is in trouble. What are its options for the future?


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

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7. Ask Users What They Want

The one strategy that GNOME has never tried is asking users what they want. Instead, the project has preferred to rely on usability theory, treating it as an exact science instead of a collection of competing ideas supported by usually inconclusive studies that could be mustered to support almost any design.

In GNOME 3, testing with actual users did not occur until near the end of the development cycle, when the chances of any major changes were remote.

Based on this performance, the chances seem slim that GNOME will suddenly start consulting users. More likely, such a suggestion would be greeted with explanations that users didn't know what they want, or what the implications of their demands might be. Others might argue that, if you only listen to users, then you will never innovate, because users only want what they already know.

A desktop -- and even a table and cloud services -- could be built by starting with what users know and adding new possibilities to it. But does the GNOME project have the will to work that way? Long-ingrained habits might make this approach impossible for GNOME to implement.

The Likeliest Strategy

Which of these strategies -- or, possibly, which combination of strategies -- GNOME will choose is still uncertain. Much depends on the ability of developers to admit that their efforts were wasted or unwanted, and to learn from GNOME 3.

However, the earliest indicators aren't promising. Having remade the GNOME desktop, developers are now intent on doing the same for the Nautilus file-manager, as The Blog of Helios points out.

The roadmap for Nautilus over the next year includes plans to remove the extra pane, and to merge functions that until now have been kept separate for convenience. With Linux Mint already forking Nautilus, all the pieces seem in place for a mini-replay of GNOME 3. Since a similar strategy produced GNOME 3, this choice seems dubious at best, especially since it would allow the project to continue.

Admittedly, the plans to overhaul Nautilus were being carried out before GUADEC and its talk of future plans and renewal. But the fact that existing plans have not been allowed to continue could be an indication that GNOME developers do not have the collective will to make the adjustments needed to revitalize the project. They definitely seem unable to change directions in a hurry.

In the short term, anyway, GNOME seems to favor the idea of limping along and praying for a miracle with GNOME 4. This strategy would allow the project to continue much as it has always done, but hardly seems an approach that allows for the broad renewal that is needed.

Probably, at some point, something called GNOME 4 will be released. But if the early indications are accurate, by the time it appears, nobody will be left to care.

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Tags: Linux, Gnome

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